A Short History of Williton

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Probably named after the Swilly, or Willite River, a small settlement named in a Saxon Charter in 854 AD, a gift of land from King Aethelwulf. It also appeared to be the site of a hunting lodge for King Edward. A number of small farms had created a busy settlement by the 12th Century, with a manor house belonging to the Fitz-Urse family – whose scion Reynold Fitz-Urse, together with another local man and two others, were implicated in the murder of Thomas a-Becket.

Williton is now a Civil Parish in West Somerset, and the administrative centre for the district – situated at the junction of the A39, A358 and B3191 roads, and is roughly equidistant from Minehead, Bridgwater and Taunton. It houses the offices of West Somerset District Council. Roughly 2 miles South of Watchet, it has curious boundaries, stretching to include a couple of houses in Washford, and the coastal village of Doniford – but Sampford Brett and a couple of houses at the top of Tower Street, are included in the Sampford Brett Parish. Before 1902, it was included in the ancient Parish of St Decuman, together with Watchet. Williton Parish includes, however, Orchard Wyndham House, South-West of Williton, and the site of Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements – and an early Viking settlement , hidden away in its’ secret valley (so difficult to find that it wasn’t included in the Domesday Book). Further evidence of the Parish’s past lie in Battlegore and its three bronze-age barrows to the North West of the Parish.

Williton is now a small Parish of just under 3,000 people in about 1100 households. It has a small high street two banks, two supermarkets, and a number of other small shops, estate agents, a garage and a publishing company that produces the local weekly newspaper, the West Somerset Free Press. The centre of the village is also the location for a large agricultural enterprise, Gliddons, that sells and services farming and agricultural equipment, hardware and clothing, providing ample evidence of the principal occupations in the area – farming – and a continuation of the site as an old auction market in the Middle Ages.

The main church for Williton – St Peter’s – once centrally situated, is now on the South West of the village (it was the focus of the latter that moved – not the Church). A Methodist Chapel is located on Tower Street. Another notable building – the Williton Workhouse on Long Street was converted recently into flats and a small housing estate.

Agriculture figures strongly in the industrial area – Roughmoor – at the Eastern and of the town, but other enterprises are being set up to serve the growing needs of the community. The Kingswood area is also the site of the steam railway station, part of the West Somerset Railway, buily in 1862, and a focal point for railway enthusiasts from all over the country.

There are two schools in the Parish, serving primary (St Peter’s) and middle school children (Danesfield School). Older children usually attend the West Somerset Community College in Minehead.

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There are a number of public houses in the parish, and an Indian restaurant. Accommodation for visitors to the Parish consist of a number of Bed and Breakfast establishments in and around the centre, and in outlying areas of the Parish. There is also a doctors surgery and chemist, a library and a police station.

Williton is a thriving community, with many local voluntary organisations providing interest for local people of all ages, or support for those who need it. Community areas include the local Memorial Ground, a large sports and amenity centre in the centre of the Parish, which has a football pitch, changing rooms, the site of the youth club, and a children’s play area. The Memorial Ground was given to the Parish, and is now supported by the Trustee – Williton Parish Council – as a charity.